Many anglers dream of an Alaskan fishing vacation in the land of the midnight sun but cross this trip off their list because of budget concerns. Rejoice fellow anglers, there is hope. The best news is you don’t have to stay at an expensive lodge or go fishing with a guide to catch fish in the 49th state. I will show you how, on most years, my friends and family took a week of vacation for under 1,200 USD per person to have what some would say is a trip of a lifetime. I’ll focus on the Kenai Peninsula area since it’s where most anglers go for their first Alaska fishing vacation. Many of these cost-saving concepts will work elsewhere in Alaska. I lived in the land of the midnight sun for 10 years spanning parts of the 1970s 80s and 90s and have visited almost every year since moving down south. I would love to show you how to make this trip happen.
Share a cabin
One of the best methods to save money on your vacation is to divide and conquer. If you rent a cabin and split it four or five ways, it reduces the cost drastically. Even though some cabins will charge an extra 15 USD per person, or more, after the first two occupants, the savings are dramatic. If you need a rental car, that too goes down in price when splitting the cost four or more ways. This arithmetic applies to groceries and gas too.
When it comes time to pick a cabin, you should know that a cabin with direct Kenai River access will be significantly more money than one without. If you opt for a cabin without river access, there are several places on the banks of the Kenai River you can go fishing for a small fee or free, but you will have to drive each time you want to fish. Quite often, this is not a big deal. There are options in Cooper Landing, Sterling, Soldotna and Kenai for lodging that will put you close to the action. If you are close to Kenai or Soldotna it is easier to buy supplies like fishing gear, groceries, and liquor. If you stay in the Cooper Landing or Sterling area, it’s usually quieter if you get a place away from the highway. If you are okay with camping in a tent, the price goes down significantly. Check out the town of Soldotna that operates Centennial and Swiftwater parks where you can camp and fish for 21 USD per night regular season, and 26 USD per night peak season- July 3-31. The facilities are decent and Soldotna is very close for supply runs.
If there are just two of you going to Alaska, it might make sense to stay in a hotel. The Aspen Hotel in Soldotna is a good choice for a centrally located place to access good fishing areas.
Time your trip for the best fishing
For your first trip to Alaska, it is essential to know when to go. If you want the best chance to catch fish most would agree that August in an even-numbered year is best. This is because the pink salmon, aka humpy, runs in high numbers in the Kenai. As a bonus you have an excellent chance to catch the bigger and feistier silver salmon, aka coho, using the same gear and methods. Don’t pay attention to the locals that scoff at keeping a pink salmon. They are jaded from catching reds that run in large numbers most June and July months on the Kenai. It’s more expensive to stay during that time and reds are harder to catch for most first-timers. I’ve brought friends on our annual trip and even though the fish were in, they didn’t catch a single red salmon. Reds can be very frustrating to land as a rookie. Going for the pinks and silvers will give you an excellent chance for catching lots of fish per day and taking back plenty to share with friends and family.
Plane and car considerations
The most expensive part of an Alaskan vacation is typically airfare. With some planning, you should be able to save money here too. Alaska Airlines has a credit card you can get that after the first year gives you a companion fare. I used this fare last year and will probably use it again this year. It is almost half the rate of flying on other airlines out of Baltimore (where I currently reside). Before you sign up for the Alaska Air credit card, ask to see if they will still offer this great bonus. Depending on the area you fly out of you might find flights for 500 USD or so round trip on low-cost airlines. When I used to live in Denver, we found airfare for under 500 USD on Sun Country, a charter airline.
A rental car is also expensive, but if you split it four ways, the savings are enough to buy a lot of beer. It’s best to search and reserve ten to eleven months ahead of time to get the best rate. I use a website like rentalcars.com to find the best prices and usually rent a crew cab pickup truck. Some years it cost as little as 800 USD, and other years as much as 1,100 USD. A party of four will usually need this much space for gear on the way to your cabin. On the way back to the airport you will need the extra space for boxes full of fish you caught. I recommend renting the car or pickup in Anchorage because of significant savings over the Kenai Airport rental car rates.
For discounted fishing supplies, I recommend shopping at Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna. They have lures, rods, reels, boots, and most anything you would need at reasonable prices.
Not cheap, but possible
Even with the savings, I’ve shown you this is not a cheap trip, but it is a great way to see a significant part of Alaska for less. If you choose the Soldotna area, you’ll be in range for day trips to Seward and Homer, two of Alaska prettiest towns. Please feel free to contact me by email with questions and I’ll help as much as possible. I’d love to hear that you had a trip of a lifetime in the land of the midnight sun and caught a bunch of salmon.
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